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POULTRY WORKERS

The Public Health Service Act provides the definition of migratory and seasonal agricultural workers for health
center grantees, and includes those working in aquaculture and animal production provided the patient meets the
guidelines for being a migratory or seasonal worker. The Uniform Data System Manual, the reporting mechanism
for all health centers, states For both [migratory and seasonal] categories of workers, the term agriculture means
farming in all its branches as defined by the OMB-developed North American Industry Classification System (NAICS),
and includes seasonal workers included in the following codes and all sub-codes within: 111, 112, 1151, and 1152,
removing a previous exclusion of animal production workers.1

This change increases the potential number of agricultural worker patients a Health Center may serve, and this
subpopulation of agricultural workers has a unique set of social, economic, and occupational health risks and
disparities.

WORKER DEMOGRAPHICS
There are approximately 250,000 poultry workers, and processing occurs in 174 factories in the US.2
The production and processing of poultry is a process largely controlled in the US by a small number of
corporations relying on contracted farmers and growers. The workers who hatch, raise, transport,
slaughter, and process poultry are racially and culturally diverse but universally vulnerable to labor abuses
and health and safety hazards.3,4

Poultry workers are employed in a 3-D job: one that is dirty, demanding, and dangerous.5
Relatively little has been documented on the ethnic composition on poultry workers at each node in the
food chain, with the most research focused on those who work in processing and on those catching
chickens and transporting them from small farms to large processing plants. It is estimated that about
half of poultry processing workers are Latino, half are women, and a quarter do not possess legal
documents to work in the US. Chicken catchers may be more likely to be male, Latino, and
undocumented.
The map below is a heat map demonstrating the concentrations of poultry grower and processor locations in the
USA, with red areas possessing greater numbers of poultry businesses.

National Center for Farmworker Health 2014


LABOR CONDITIONS
Poultry workers at each link of the production chain earn low wages and work long shifts, often 12-14
hours. Chicken catchers earn an average of $92 per day for a 12 hour shift, and even poultry growers live
in poverty: 71% of poultry growers have annual incomes below the federal poverty limit.6
Chicken catchers are particularly vulnerable to wage and hour violations, as they are generally paid for
the completion of catching a set number of birds, and will not be paid for overtime.7
The poultry processing has an annual turnover rate of 100%.8
Poultry workers labor at both a high intensity and speed: A team of 7-10 chicken catchers will catch
30,000-60,000 chickens in one shift, and poultry processing workers may process up to 140 birds per
minute.9,10
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is often not provided by employers, despite frequent worker
exposure to chemicals, blood, feces, mold, endotoxins, and sharp cutting tools.11

Labor organization and worker empowerment are major issues in the poultry industry: abuse has been
widely documented, and threats of deportation and retaliation were found to be common. 12,13 Workers
who are injured on the job may face employers who refuse to pay for workmans compensation, medical
bills, or sick leave. The Southern Poverty Law Centers report documented that 20% of 302 workers
surveyed were not allowed to take bathroom breaks when needed, among other violations of basic
humane working conditions.14

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH
Every year, 100 workers die and 300,000 workers are injured in the US poultry industry.15
The non-fatal injury rate among workers in poultry and egg production as reported by the Occupational
Health and Safety Administration is 5.8 injuries and illnesses per 100 workers, which is 1.5 times higher
than the average for all U.S. workers.16
A research study in 2012 found that 42% of 284 poultry processing workers had evidence of carpal tunnel
syndrome.17

Poultry workers experience of elevated risk to many injuries and diseases due to the workplace exposures
and hazards, including:
o Cumulative trauma disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive motion18,19
o Musculoskeletal injuries from heavy lifting, falls, & machinery accidents
o Lacerations from knives20
o Skin infections such as onychomycosis and tinea pedis from exposure to chemicals and poultry
fluids21
o Asthma & respiratory conditions from ammonia, dust, and chemicals22
o Mental health stress resulting in depression, substance and alcohol abuse23

1 Bureau of Primary Health Care, Health Resources and Services Administration. (2013). BPHC Uniform Data System Manual 2013.
Retrieved from http://bphc.hrsa.gov/healthcenterdatastatistics/reporting/2013udsreport.pdf
2 Southern Poverty Law Center & Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. (2013). Unsafe at these speeds. Retrieved from

http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/Unsafe_at_These_Speeds_web.pdf
3 Marn, A., Grzywacz, J., Arcury, T., Carrillo,L., Coates, M., & Quandt, S. (2009). Evidence of organizational injustice in poultry processing

plants: Possible effects on occupational health and safety among Latino workers in North Carolina. American Journal of Industrial Medicine,
52(1). Doi: 10.1002/ajim.20643

National Center for Farmworker Health 2014


4 United Food and Commercial Workers. (n.d.). Injury and injustice Americas poultry industry. Retrieved from
http://www.uusc.org/files/programs/econjustice/pdf/injury_and_injustice.pdf
5 Quandt, S., Arcury-Quandt, A., Lawlor, E., Carrillo, L., Marn, A., Grzywacz, J., & Arcury, T. (2012). 3-D jobs and health disparities: The health

implications of Latino chicken catchers working conditions. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 5. Doi: 10.1002/ajim.22072
6 United Food and Commercial Workers. (n.d.). Injury and injustice Americas poultry industry. Retrieved from

http://www.uusc.org/files/programs/econjustice/pdf/injury_and_injustice.pdf
7 Southern Poverty Law Center & Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. (2013). Unsafe at these speeds. Retrieved from

http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/Unsafe_at_These_Speeds_web.pdf
8 Southern Poverty Law Center & Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. (2013). Unsafe at these speeds. Retrieved from

http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/Unsafe_at_These_Speeds_web.pdf
9 Sagransky, M.J., Pichardo-Geisinger, R.O., Muoz-Ali, D., Feldman, S.R., Mora, D.C., & Quandt, S.A. (2012). Pachydermodactyly from

repetitive motion in poultry processing workers: A report of 2 cases. JAMA Dermatology, 148(8): 925-28.
doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2012.983
10 Musolin, K., Ramsey, J.G., Wassell, J.T., Hard, D.L., & Mueller, C. (2013). Musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic injuries among

employees at a poultry processing plant. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/pdfs/2012-0125_Interim_Report_Final.pdf


11 Arcury, T., Grzywacz, J., Anderson, A., Mora, D., Carrillo, L., Chen, H., & Quandt, S. (2012). Personal protective equipment and work safety

climate among Latino poultry processing workers in Western North Carolina, USA. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental
Health, 18(4). Doi: 10.1179/2049396712Y.0000000006
12 Marn, A., Grzywacz, J., Arcury, T., Carrillo,L., Coates, M., & Quandt, S. (2009). Evidence of organizational injustice in poultry processing

plants: Possible effects on occupational health and safety among Latino workers in North Carolina. American Journal of Industrial Medicine,
52(1). Doi: 10.1002/ajim.20643
13 Southern Poverty Law Center & Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. (2013). Unsafe at these speeds. Retrieved from

http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/Unsafe_at_These_Speeds_web.pdf
14 Southern Poverty Law Center & Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. (2013). Unsafe at these speeds. Retrieved from

http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/Unsafe_at_These_Speeds_web.pdf
15 Southern Poverty Law Center & Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. (2013). Unsafe at these speeds. Retrieved from

http://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/Unsafe_at_These_Speeds_web.pdf
16 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2011). Table 1: Incidence rates of non-fatal injuries and illnesses by industry and

cases types, 2010.


17 Musolin, K., Ramsey, J.G., Wassell, J.T., Hard, D.L., & Mueller, C. (2013). Musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic injuries among

employees at a poultry processing plant. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hhe/pdfs/2012-0125_Interim_Report_Final.pdf


18 Schulz, M., Grzywacz, J., Chen, H., Mora, D., Arcury, T., Marn, A., Mirabelli, M., & Quandt, S. (2012). Upper body musculoskeletal

symptoms of Latino poultry processing workers and a comparison group of Latino manual workers. American Journal of Industrial Medicine,
56. Doi: 10.1002/ajim.22100
19 Cartwright, M., Walker, F., Blocker, J., Schulz, M., Arcury, T., Grzywacz, J., Mora, D., Chen, H., Marn, A., & Quandt, S. (2012). The

prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome in Latino poultry processing workers and other Latino manual workers. Journal of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine, 54(2). Doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31823fdf53
20 Quandt, S., Arcury-Quandt, A., Lawlor, E., Carrillo, L., Marn, A., Grzywacz, J., & Arcury, T. (2012). 3-D jobs and health disparities: The

health implications of Latino chicken catchers working conditions. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 5. Doi: 10.1002/ajim.22072
21 Pichardo-Geisinger, R., Muoz-Ali, D., Arcury, T., Blocker, J., Grzywacz, J., Mora, D., Chen, H., Schulz, M., Felderman, S., & Quandt, S.

(2013). Dermatologist-diagnosed skin diseases among immigrant Latino poultry processors and other manual workers in North Carolina,
USA. International Journal of Dermatology, 52(11). Doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2012.05580.x
22 Rimac, D., Macan, J., Varnai, V., Vucemilo, M., Matkovic, K., Prester, L., Orct, T., Trosic, I., & Pavicic, I. (2010). Exposure to poultry dust

and health effects in poultry workers: impact of mould and mite allergens. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health,
83(1).
23 Quandt, S., Arcury-Quandt, A., Lawlor, E., Carrillo, L., Marn, A., Grzywacz, J., & Arcury, T. (2012). 3-D jobs and health disparities: The

health implications of Latino chicken catchers working conditions. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 5. Doi: 10.1002/ajim.22072

Agricultural Worker Factsheets are published by the National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc. 1770 FM 967,
Buda, TX 7861 0, (512) 312-2700. This publication was made possible through grant number U30CS0 9737 from
the Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Primary Health Care, and its contents are solely the
responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of HRSA.

National Center for Farmworker Health 2014